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Dawson County retail back in fashion
Norton gives thumbs up to new shopping centers
7 Norton speaks locally pic
Economic expert Frank Norton touted Dawson Countys retail resurgence when he spoke to the local chamber of commerce last week. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson County News

The announcement that two new retail developments are going in at Ga. 400 and Dawson Forest in Dawson County has been named to a list of the top-10 things to happen in North Georgia in 2015.

Retail resurgence in Dawson County topped out at No. 4 in the list compiled by real estate expert Frank Norton, who was in town Thursday to give his annual economic outlook.

"Retail is back in fashion," he said, speaking to a group of about 100 attending the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Dawson County's retail district, he said, has become the primary shopping locale for North Forsyth and the entire northern 400 region.

"You attract huge numbers of folks on weekends. And they leave their sales tax dollars here," he said.

The new retail developments include the 100-acre Kroger-anchored Dawson Marketplace on the west side of Ga. 400 with stores such a Ross Dress for Less, Hobby Lobby, PetCo and Famous Footwear.

Set to open in the fall of 2016, a 45,600-square-foot space, Publix supermarket will anchor the shopping plaza on the eastside of the highway, where Brooklyn Joe's Pizzeria, Lee Nails, Great Clips and a Chili's restaurant outparcel have already signed on to open locations.

The developments should bring in about 750 new jobs, which also calls for the need of affordable housing in Dawson County for workers.

The problem, according to Norton, is that Dawson County, like most of north Georgia and metro Atlanta, is virtually out of homes under $150,000.

"It's one of the number one issues for us," said Dawson County Commission Chairman Mike Berg. "We have 750 new employees coming in at 400 in the next year and a half, and there's no place for them to live.

"When Walmart opened, it took them over a year to get their last 50 employees, so we're going to have a problem trying to import people for those jobs."

Peter Hill, a local architect that serves on the county's development authority, said there has to be a concerted effort made to attract developers that want to come to Dawson County and build affordable housing.

"Charlie [Auvermann, executive director] at the development authority is always doing outreach to get developers for housing," he said. "Multi-family, maybe townhomes, where you can get ownership, in higher density, those kinds of developments are appealing for people coming in that can't buy a $300,000 or $400,000 house.

"I think that kind of development would be attractive, and I think we look at multi-use developments where you live, work and play."